Beyond Remote Desktop in SBS 2003 [book excerpt]

Hi gang – I am Harry Brelsford, the author of Windows Small Business Server 2003 Best PRactices and I am writing this today from Ocean Shores WA where I am fitting in a few vacation days before fall!

Each day – I like to post up a few pages from my book for your reading pleasure. I will do this unitl SBS 2008 ships and my new Small Business Server 2008 Blueprint book is on the shelves (around November 12th).

Today is a guest column from Frank Ohlhorst, well-known industry media guy now at Ziff-Davis. He speakes towards looking beyond RDP or remote desktop in SBS 2003. This concludes Chapter 8 of my book.


Harry Brelsford | CEO at SMB Nation |

Microsoft Small Business Specialist SBSC, MBA, MCSE, MCT, CNE, CLSE, CNP, MCP

And don’t forget my SMB Nation 2008 fall conference is just five weeks aways in Seattle where we host a SBS 2008 and EBS 2008 luanch party!

Beyond Remote Desktop, the path to remote control.

Frank J. Ohlhorst

Small Business Server 2003 does a wonderful job of bundling remote access capabilities, but there are some drawbacks to how the product goes about that.

First off, there are some minimum requirements that must be met for those features to be viable, namely having Windows XP professional on the client PCs. That requirement leaves those using earlier operating systems out in the cold. Another limitation is that Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection uses Terminal Services, in other words it is a remote session, not a remote control solution. That prevents sharing the desktop with a remote user, a key requirement

for training or troubleshooting problems remotely. To overcome those limitations, integrators can turn to several third party

vendors for remote control packages, ranging from Symantec’s PCanywhere to hosted services such as, but selecting one of those products requires an additional expense, which can be a hard sell, especially as SBS2003

includes the “remote desktop connection” feature. Savvy integrators can turn to a freeware/open source product called VNC

(Virtual Network Computing), which can be downloaded from What makes VNC unique (beyond it being free) is that it is a multiplatform

product, in other words you can control a windows system from a linux system or solaris system or vice versa and VNC is quite compact and easy to use. VNC is a two part product, there is a server component and viewer component. The server component is installed on the system to be controlled, while the remote user uses the viewer component to take control of a remote system. VNC is a barebones product, and just offers basic remote control capabilities, with that in mind there are a few tricks integrators need to know to use the product. First off, VNC will not search for a system on the network, you must know the destination system’s IP address. Secondly, you will need access to the internal network to connect to a system. That can be a problem, but one easily solved by

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just using the included VPN server that comes with SBS2003. Once you have established a VPN connection, just input the IP Address of the target PC into the VNC viewer application, enter a password and the remote control session becomes active.

While third party products may offer more robust features, such as file transfer and search features, integrators will find that VNC fits the bill for most remote support needs and at a price that can’t be beat.


I started the chapter emphasizing how important it is for mobile workers to have robust remote connectivity. SBS 2003 is positioned very well to support these individuals with services such as the amazing RWW and an impressive update to OWA. You were educated on other mobility matters such as VPN and Terminal Services. So now it’s your moment to fly away and join the ranks of the upwardly mobile!

See you next chapter.


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